BRCA1 heir tells her story

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Oleksandra G. Manko
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
According to National Cancer Institute, five to 10 percent of breast cancers diagnosed every year are hereditary.

BRCA1 and BRCA2, short for Breast Cancer 1 and 2, are two known genes, certain inherited alterations of which put carriers at a high risk of developing breast, ovarian and prostate cancer at a relatively young age.

While most people may live their lives blissfully unaware of this nature's flaw, for others, early recognition and necessary prophylactic steps that follow might mean the difference between life and death.

Jenyphr Goldsberry, wife of Capt. Gerremy Goldsberry, 64th Aggressor Squadron pilot, found out firsthand what it means to inherit an altered BRCA1 gene. Her grandmother and great aunt on her father's side both died of cancer. When her father tested positive for the gene alteration as well, it was time for Jenyphr to take the test also.

"I had a 50 percent chance of having it and I just assumed I wouldn't have it," she recalled. "I was affected more than I expected."

Next followed research on the internet, talking to doctors and friends. The mother of three soon found out that for someone with altered BRCA1 gene and strong family history of cancer, there is an up to 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer and 50 percent chance of ovarian cancer within a lifetime. Her options ranged from increased screening and medications to prophylactic surgery, and Jenyphr decided upon the latter.

"Since I found out I had BRCA1, I had a lot of anxiety going in for tests and all that increased screening would do is discover [cancer] early," she reasoned. "I'd still have to have a mastectomy at that point and probably have to go through chemo and radiation - it's just not worth it."

Jenyphr, 29, will have her prophylactic mastectomy in January 2009, but she is not wasting any time. Along with her husband she is training for a Breast Cancer 3-day 60-mile walk in San Diego, slated for November. To participate in the event the couple raised $4,500, that will be used to fund breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

In the mean time she shares her story to educate others. Her grandmother struggled with cancer for 17 years and had to have her arm amputated as a result of radiation treatment. "If you have a strong family history, it may be worth it to know [if you have the altered BRCA gene]," said Jenyphr. "Be proactive. Talk to your doctors, get genetic counseling."